Building a Hero (And Everyone Else)
Hello Readers! The #MFRW Author’s Blog has thrown down the gauntlet with a 52-week blog challenge. I am, admittedly, late to the party. Oy — story of my life. Nevertheless, I’m tackling Week 25: Your characters: How do you build them and flesh them out?
Some writers plot and plan while others start writing and see what sticks. I’m a hybrid of the two. I always start with a plan and begin an outline, but I’m not always able to fill in every point straight out of the gate. As for my characters, the same holds true. I start with a rough outline and add to the larger picture as inspiration leads me. The story and characters have to grow together.
I begin with my concept/genre. Am I writing a curvy girl and shifter romance? Is the story about a summer fling at my favorite beach? Is this a contemporary office romance? Is this an LGBT romance? The genre gives me a jumping-off point. Especially, since certain series such as Horse Mountain Shifters already have a certain set of rules. For example, most were-horses are vegetarians. If one of them eats meat, there’s usually a reason why that affects the character profile (raised by a human or raised by wolf-shifters).
You can’t have a romance without some lovers so the next step is to start thinking about my couple (or in the case of the Triple Passion Play series, my poly triad). Going back to my Horse Mountain Shifters series, all the heroes are Stallion shifters so the next step is to decide if the stallion shifter’s fated mate is a human or a shifter, and if the heroine is a shifter, what kind? Once our hero has a main squeeze, we can start fleshing him out.
A hero needs a backstory if he’s going to be interesting. He has to have a family and friends or if he doesn’t, there has to be a reason why. These things will shape the character’s personality. The guy also needs to have something going on right now so one of the first things I do once I have the basics figured out is give my hero a job.
When I was creating Malcolm “Mal” Patterson, the hero of Saving Suki, part of his elaborate backstory was the day he saved the heroine from bullies. He was sixteen at the time and later didn’t remember the incident. He had a lot going on with his abusive home life, but Suki never forgot that day or him.
Malcolm’s Character Work-up started something along these lines:
Clan: Banks (Another rule – shifters belong to a clan with a matriarch in charge)
Appearance: I often look for pictures for character-appearance inspiration. Sometimes I’ll even make a folder of images for the character.
Shifted Appearance: Do we have a quarter horse or an Arabian? Maybe a draft horse. Lots of choices.
Family: Mother died shortly after his birth. Mal’s father was a wealthy doctor but had been cold and abusive toward him. His dad’s death/funeral is the catalyst that brings him back to the mountain. His surrogate family was the werewolf housekeeper who raised him and her family.
Friends: Dash – His housekeeper’s son/like a brother to Mal. Also, the two humans who are Mal’s business partners.
Job: Personal trainer/part owner of a gym.
Hobbies: working out, hiking, barrel racing as a kid
Type: BBW/Curvy girls!
Personality: Outwardly pensive but still waters run deep
With this short work-up in mind, I build more as I write. I think about smaller details such as what type of clothing Mal likes to wear or what foods he eats. Is he the type to drive a truck or a car? What does a physical trainer binge eat when he’s depressed?
I went through the same steps to turn the heroine into a three-dimensional, fully envisioned woman. To create side characters like Mal’s friend Dash, I go through a similar but less detailed process.
You can learn more about Mal and Suki by reading an excerpt and blurb here. Or you can grab your copy now.
Want to learn how other authors flesh out their character?
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